The following poem was inspired by the story of Margaret Garner. Garner, who was affectionately known as Peggy, was an enslaved woman who fled slavery in Kentucky for freedom in Ohio but was soon captured. As her capturers were closing in on her, she killed her 2 year old daughter before she too could be recaptured. 

The story made headlines, and brought into question laws of the day about whether or not she would be charged with murder if her child wasn’t even seen as human, or as a slave who destroyed property. This heartbreaking story of a Black mother’s impossible decision to protect her daughter from the violence of chattel slavery, the inhumanity of her enslavers and shatters the undying popular myths of slavery not being “that bad.” 

Margaret Garner painting by Candace Hunter
painting by Candace Hunter

Peggy

I would do it again.

I swear it.

I was born from violent seed, forced into the womb of my mother.

She wept.

She watched her belly swell.

Smiled at the spins and kicks.

Our secret communications were for us alone to share.

She was not spared harsh labor

further indignities

Or invalidations of her humanity.

Even in the most precious condition

With two hearts 

With two souls

residing in her body.

It was the only time I was ever safe.

It was the only time she could ever protect me.

She screamed and pushed me from her body.

Each contraction bringing me closer

to the outer boundaries of her safe haven.

She cried from pain.

From losing control.

For fear of the fate to befall me

from the man whose seed I grew from.

I met a man. 

I loved him and he loved me. 

I gave him a son who was ours for just a little while 

Before my massa sent for me cuz missus was with child.

Who took me

and forced his angry seed to take up roots in me.

And like my mama

I wept.

I kept my baby safe within me til it was time.

I screamed and pushed him from my body.

Each contraction bringing him closer

to the outer boundaries of my safe haven.

I too cried from pain

and from losing control.

For fear of the fate to befall him.

From the man whose seed he grew from.

Would he find a wife who he loved and

Who gave him a son just before her massa call for her too?

And again it happened.

That next child, another son.

And then a daughter.

And then another pregnancy and it was time to run.

We ran. 

So far but not far enough cuz

they found us.

And I sooner kill my daughter than have her keep on the tradition

Of being taken 

and filled with angry, violent seed

From a man who look like the one who planted her.

I did what my mama didn’t have heart to and made my girl child safe once more.

Safe from all the angry violent men

Who want to own her,

take her,

take her babies,

take her short lived freedom.

And I gave her the greatest gift of her life by taking it.

And I’d do it again. 

Only regrets is I ain’t have the time to give the same gift to my boys.


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Asia Renée is an activist and mom of two. Her passions include reproductive justice, dismantling white supremacy and patriarchy while reveling in the sisterhood that is #blackgirlmagic. She writes poetry at blackwomangaze.wordpress.com and is chief editor of The Conscious Parent Collective (consciousparentcollective.com), a place for all to find resources and advice for raising socially conscious children.